Will oil and gas issues in the South China Sea escalate in 2023?

On March 8th, 2023, the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) published a report on oil and gas projects in the South China Sea.

AMTI claims that China regularly engaged in oil and gas exploration standoffs with Southeast Asian countries inside the nine-dash line from 2018 to 2021. In contrast, 2022 is considered a calm year, except for one event involving the Philippines.

However, according to AMTI, 2023 can be the year in which oil and gas again will become the flashpoint as claimant countries put forward existing and new exploration projects. Potential conflict locations include:

  • Vietnam: Blue Whale project, Block 128, Block 05-1B, and Block 05-1C, Block 06-1 and Block 12W.
  • Indonesia: Tuna project and Block Natuna D-Alpha.
  • Malaysia: Block SK320, Block SK306, Block SK410B, and the Kasawari gas development project, Block 2V, Block 2W, and Block X.
  • The Philippines: Reed Bank.

Oil and gas have been one of the South China Sea’s contentious issues since the 1960s. China has resorted to aggressive behaviors towards oil and gas activities in the area where the nine-dash line overlaps with other Southeast Asian claimants’ EEZ.  

Regardless of whether oil and gas tensions arise in 2023, Southeast Asian littoral countries have full sovereign rights over the oil and gas resources in their EEZ, which are protected by international law. Exploiting oil and gas in its EEZ is their legal and legitimate right. China’s actions can be said to violate the waters of Southeast Asian littoral countries, and international laws, including the UNCLOS, as the nine-dash line has been rejected by the 2016 tribunal’s ruling.

The post is originally published here